Cylon: 3 top London startups hacking hacking

With bank hacks, photo hacks, government hacks, wifi hacks, email hacks and no doubt plenty more leaky digital systems just waiting for cheeky chancers or organised criminals to find weaknesses in, cybertech has perhaps never been hotter property.

Having officially launched in April and recently taken in its second cohort of cybertech startups, Tech City News takes a look at three top alumni from the first cohort of London’s first security accelerator Cylon.


What is it? 

AimBrain is building the next-generation platform for mobile biometric authentication.

The company has developed an industry-leading and patent-pending technology that uses machine-learning to track advanced user biometrics: not only what users do with their device, but also how they do it. AimBrain monitors features such as touch location, pressure, typing speed and tremor.

The company will be closing a “significant financing round by the end of October from a well-known VC fund”, which will allow them to expand and build new features.

Oh, and they also have a number of paid trials in the pipeline with “major high street banks”.

What is the threat?

“The threat we are working on is twofold,” says cofounder Andrius Sutas. “Firstly, mobile fraud alone costs an average of $92.3m per large enterprise per year.

“Secondly, online payment processors lose more than $1bn in transaction fees annually due to abandonment of 3D-secure systems like Verified by Visa.

“By using our technology, clients prevent fraud and enable users to securely skip high-friction authentication steps, without trading-off the user experience.”

How big is the threat (end of the world or tiny cracks)?

“Biometrics are the definite future of authentication, particularly indicated by an expected market size of $35bn by 2020,” Sutas explains.

“30% of organisations will use biometric authentication on mobile devices by next year and biometrics are expected to be the main banking authentication method by 2020.”

Who’s in the team?

The founding team are all PhD-level engineers with experience in machine-learning, biometrics and security.

CEO Andrius Sutas got a first-class computer science degree from the University of Edinburgh, graduated from the highly-selective tech training programme Entrepreneur First and even went to space camp with the European Space Agency’s Summer of Code in Space.

CTO Alesis Novik got an MSc with Distinction in Machine Learning from the University of Edinburgh, which counts three years of training in this area. He previously worked at CERN. Yep, CERN.

So what’s next?

“We are excited by a future where we don’t need to remember passwords or usernames, as all devices and services know who we are and act accordingly,” Sutas says.


What is it? 

Originally commissioned for the Ministry of Defence, Cyberlitic provides companies with real-time cyber threat risk assessment to help them prioritise an ever-growing number of potential threats.

To date, the company’s funding has come from grants and bootstrapping from its founders, but they are about to complete an investment round to help with support, recruitment, product development and go-to-market plans.

Cyberlitic is on the lookout for devs and data scientists, with a view to building towards a Series A round next year.

What is the threat?

“The cyber threat is not restricted to any single type or vector, but should be considered as a whole, whether that be from the insider, physical or external threats,” says CEO Stuart Laidlaw.

“We are providing a solution to is the rate at which the threat is growing in both volume and sophistication, offering an intelligent software tool that helps the security analyst triage the threat and focus on the most dangerous first.”

How big is the threat ?

“Defending businesses from cyber attack at the boundary of its network is no longer acceptable,” Laidlaw explains.

“The threat is large enough and sophisticated enough to ‘get in’ and therefore it is critical to identify when this is happening or likely to happen as quickly as possible.”

Who’s in the team?

Cyberlytic’s team is based out of Belfast at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies within the Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics Communications and Information Technology.

Cofounders Stuart Laidlaw and CTO St. John Harold have both worked on UK government cyber security.


What’s the threat?

“Security breaches caused by personal mobile devices brought into an organisation and used for work purposes are becoming a major security threat to organisation inside and outside of the UK,” says cofounder Philip Gasslander.

“Bring Your Own Device solutions are implemented within an organisations to allow employees to use their privately owned mobile devices to access corporate data and applications securely.

“However, current BYOD solutions force employees to use devices and apps that they don’t want to use, which reduces productivity as well as compliance.”

So what is it?

Sphere allows for any ‘out of the box’ app to be executed in the company’s secure environment, without having to be reprogrammed.

This makes Sphere cheaper for the organisation to implement and manage, and easier to use for the employee compared to current BYOD solutions on the market, and as a result decreases security risks.

How big it the threat?

Some stats from Cisco (2014) and Gartner (2013) on BYOD:

  • 51% of IT professionals reported security breaches from unsecured mobile devices
  • 59% of IT decision-makers believe they would be at a competitive disadvantage if they did not embrace BYOD
  • BYOD delivers a daily average of 37 minutes increased productivity per employee
  • 70% of employees with smartphones regularly check their emails outside of working hours
  • BYOD market estimated to be worth more than $300bn by 2019

Who’s in the team?

Cofounder Philip Gasslander holds an MSc in Management from the London School of Economics. Kubi Mensah has an MSc in IT Security and a BSc in Computer Science with a minor in Economics from Germany’s Dortmund University. Dominik Thalmann took an MSc in Computer Science at Dortmund University.

How is the company funded?

Sphere has been funded by Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator accelerator programme. The company has so far split its time between London and Silicon Valley.

So what’s next?

“We’re currently preparing for the launch of our pilot phase, which is set to commence early 2016,” Gasslander says.

“We still have a few open slots for organisations eager to work closely with us in the final development stages of our product.”